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From meisenscher@igc.org Sun Sep 3 07:36:26 2000
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 2000 00:08:53 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>
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Article: 104032
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The Nader-bashing begins, but he deserves to be heard

The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)
12 September 2000

SO IT begins. The guardians of reality at the New York Times Corp. and other media conglomerates are sharpening their knives to cut Ralph Nader and the Green Party down to size. "Many of those who are thinking about voting for Mr. Nader probably imagine that he is still the moderate, humane activist of the 1960s ...

"But somewhere along the way, the practical radical disappeared ... he is now a changed man ... a unifying theme in all (his) causes seems to be not consumer protection but general hostility toward corporations," warns Paul Krugman of the New York Times.

What has America's Most Trusted Advocate done to inspire such fear and loathing in pundits like Mr. Krugman?

It seems that Mr. Nader's activism was OK when it was "practical" and "moderate." But to Mr. Krugman's horror, Mr. Nader no longer just warns us about one defective car, one defective drug, one defective medical practice at a time. He dares ask aloud, "Who's in charge here? What has corporate privilege done to thwart our democratic ideals?" To Mr. Krugman and his ilk, I say, "Right on, Ralph!"

Mr. Krugman think it's OK for Ralph and the rest of us to be polite consumers and limit ourselves to playing the regulatory game - sue to get a defective car recalled, testify to reduce a poison, debate how much corporate soft money should be allowed in elections.

What brings out the knives, however, is when people rebel at the subservient status of consumer and become citizens. Because as we learned in grade-school civics, "we the people" are the source of all political power, and nothing can be beyond our authority as citizens. This includes defining the proper role of corporations in a democratic society. And this frightens the Krugmans of this world.

Here in Toledo, our school board debates how much money soft drink companies should pay for exclusive contracts to sell sugar water to students. We submit a proposal to DaimlerChrysler Corp. for a high-school technical academy to train students for jobs at the new Jeep plant.

Instead of beseeching these artificial entities called corporations, we could behave like we're really running the show, end tax abatements and put the people's money into programs we decide we need.

Instead of arguing before an endless series of regulatory agencies about how many parts-per-million of corporate poisons will cause our children to suffer the acceptable number of birth defects, we could decree that corporations will not be allowed to poison at all. And while we're at it, they are forbidden to influence, buy, contribute to, or participate in the political process. Period.

To get there, we need to consider the fundamentals Mr. Nader is starting to articulate, beginning with one in particular that really bothers Mr. Krugman. He grumbled that Mr. Nader objected to South Africa's new constitution because it grants corporations legal status as individuals.

Of course what Mr. Krugman doesn't tell us is that once in our own nation's history corporations had absolutely none of the rights of people. This meant they could claim no First Amendment right to free speech; no Fourth Amendment right to demand a search warrant before an OSHA inspection; no Fourteenth Amendment right to due process to protect even anticipated profits in product liability suits, and any other constitutional "rights" their army of attorneys can dream up.

Knowing how corporations have used this "corporate personhood" argument to dominate this nation, Mr. Nader rightfully tried to warn South African patriots to beware.

Mr. Nader's candidacy will interject these and other critical issues into the national debate - if the guardians of reality allow him into the debates.

Mr. Krugman and his crowd find that frightening. I find it the most hopeful and inspiring presidential race I've ever seen.

Mike Ferner is a former Toledo city councilman and former mayoral candidate, and a member of the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy.

1999, 2000 The Blade, All Rights Reserved.

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